Kylee Botterman wins all-around title
CLEVELAND -- UCLA moved on, and that was enough for the Bruins on Friday.
UCLA grabbed the last qualifying spot in the morning preliminary round of the NCAA women's gymnastics championships, keeping alive its quest for a second straight national title.
"We had two falls on beam today, which is uncharacteristic for us this time of year, but I'm not concerned about our team at all," Bruins coach Valorie Kondos Field said. "They're right on track, and they're prepared mentally, emotionally and physically. It has been a great championship so far."
Oklahoma (196.775) and Michigan (196.7) were in the top two positions following the morning session, and UCLA (196.5) was third. Alabama (197.05), Nebraska (196.85) and Utah (196.2) led the night qualifying round and also will compete in Saturday's finals at Cleveland State's Wolstein Center.
"On Day 1, it's always easy to get super tense trying to reach the Super Six," said UCLA junior Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, who scored a team-high 39.375 in the all-around. "We know we have some things that we can improve on, but now that we've accomplished that goal, we're going to let loose and do the performances we are capable of."
Michigan senior Kylee Botterman (39.525) won the NCAA all-around championship. Alabama senior Kayla Hoffman (39.5) was second, while Crimson Tide junior Geralen Stack-Eaton and Georgia senior Cassidy McComb tied for third at 39.4.
"We definitely have a lot of leadership from our five seniors, and it's great to see our [seven] freshmen start out their careers at the Super Six," Wolverines coach Bev Plocki said. "We're excited to be here and look forward to having a lot of fun tomorrow."
Four of the nine Bruins are making their championships debut. One of them is Pac-10 freshman of the year Olivia Courtney, who did not compete on the beam because of a hamstring injury.
Reigning NCAA floor exercise champ Brittani McCullough took Courtney's spot but lost her balance and tumbled to a 9.15, which UCLA was forced to count. The senior did score a session-high 9.95 on the vault, helping the Bruins hold off Arkansas (195.45), Georgia (195.45) and Illinois (195.1) in the standings.
"I don't think a team can make a mistake and win a national championship," Kondos Field said. "That's what it's going to take to win this year, which is great."
Defending national runner-up Oklahoma had junior Megan Ferguson (9.925) and sophomore Natasha Kelley (9.9) finish 1-2 on the beam, helping the Sooners post the top score on the apparatus at 49.175.
The Sooners also got third-place showings from Kayla Nowak and Ferguson (tying on the parallel bars), and Madison Mooring (vault).
"I am really, really ecstatic and proud of my team," Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler said. "This was definitely a team effort because we don't have an all-arounder. It was a 100 percent team effort from top to bottom."
In the second preliminary session, Alabama and Nebraska pulled away early, leaving top-ranked Florida and Utah to fight for one spot.
Junior Stephanie McAllister had a 9.9 on the vault to help the Utes advance to the finals for the 12th consecutive year. The Gators (196.125) fell exactly 0.75 short, while Oregon State (196.1) and Kent State (195) rounded out the session.
"Our fans knew we had made it before we did, but our girls trusted their math, which is neat," Utah co-coach Megan Marsden said, laughing. "After everyone started celebrating, I was just hoping they didn't make a mistake."
Kent State, located about 40 miles southwest of Cleveland, was appearing in the championships for the first time.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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